RBC Innovation Challenge

Tech for a Greener Future

Delivered by University of Toronto Entrepreneurship in partnership with RBC

The RBC Innovation Challenge is an annual, university-wide competition, open to all students, that invites multi-disciplinary teams to think big and focus on technology projects with the potential for global impact. 

$100K in prizes

Overview

The Innovation Challenge is the latest initiative in a series of RBC partner activity to support U of T’s innovation ecosystem that also includes startup pitch competitions, research fellowships, a speaker series and resources to open the ONRamp co-working and event space.  Both RBC and U of T share a desire to prepare students for careers in technology and to develop entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial skills and mindsets. 

The projects that emerge from the challenge will be new (not existing startups) and teams can be formed in a myriad of ways – through curricular or co-curricular initiatives (incl. course work, capstones, etc.), via the U of T Entrepreneurship accelerator network and also out of facilitated meetups and ideation clinics.  Once established, teams will have approx. three months to develop their projects, with support along the way from RBC domain experts, faculty advisors, targeted workshops – culminating in a pitch competition for prizes in late January. 

The Challenge, supported by University of Toronto Entrepreneurship (UTE), will be open to all undergraduate and graduate students from across the university and may identify a different theme each year.  The theme for the inaugural RBC Innovation Challenge is: Tech for a Greener Future.

Key dates

November 13 – Deadline to submit team application

November 30 – Technical check-in and mentor super session

January 13 – Deadline to submit final pitch

January 26 – Culminating event and winner selection

2022-23 Challenge

Tech for a
Greener Future

The science is clear

Human activity is having a devastating impact on our planet.  Many experts argue that the climate crisis is the single most important threat facing our society. 

Tech for good

This challenge brings with it an opportunity – to use tech for good and generate positive societal and economic impact.

talent powerhouse

Students and faculty at U of T are at the leading edge of research into solutions that can counter climate change and our community has a track record of creating innovative solutions to global problems. 

call for action

We are calling on U of T students – with support from faculty, staff, alumni and researchers to collaborate on multi-disciplinary teams to build innovative world-changing solutions that address the climate crisis and leverage emerging technologies and data to help  Canada reach its 2050 Net Zero targets.

Challenge Statement

How might we utilize technology and data to help Canada reach its 2050 Net Zero targets?

Teams are encouraged to focus on tech-enabled projects that are relevant to one (or more) of the following stakeholder groups:

  1. Individual Canadians
  2. Small and Medium Businesses
  3. Large Companies and Government (e.g. sustainable investments and policies)

And can focus on tech and data-driven solutions related but not limited to:

  •  Measuring, reporting, lowering carbon emissions
  • Clean / renewable energy
  • General air quality
  • Responsible investments
  •  Food security
  • Transportation (eg. electric vehicles)
  • Access to clean water
  • Sustainable materials in manufacturing
  • Planetary health
  • Equity and justice

How it works

Teams can register starting September 26th when the RBC Innovation Challenge Portal opens on the UTE website, until November 13 at 11:59 pm, when team composition must be finalized, consistent with the eligibility requirements. 

Throughout the fall, a number of opportunities (virtual and in-person) will be provided for team creation and ideation, including immediately after the Launch event on October 11.  Team formation is also encouraged via curricular and co-curricular channels and through the Portal and participant Slack channels.  Many of U of T’s entrepreneurial accelerators also have “founder” matching platforms and activities. 

To tackle this challenge and build a solution from the ground-up, students should work in a cross-functional team of 3-6.  We suggest building your team with consideration for both the business and technical work that needs to be done and the subject-matter knowledge of the opportunity or gap you want to address. 

Business-focused roles

1-2 members of your team should be focused on the business aspects of your project, and need to possess the following skills:

  • Strong communication skills and awesome presentation abilities.
  • Critical thinking, leadership skills, and project management skills.
  • Not being afraid to challenge the status quo and think outside the box to advance solutions.
  • A knack for identifying and articulating business

Technical-focused roles

2-3 members of your team should be focused on the technical aspects of your project and possess the following skills:

  • Experience or understanding of programming languages, databases, platforms, frameworks, design techniques and tools, code management tooling and/or web technologies.
  • Self-driven, creative and analytical thinkers.
  • Ability to challenge the status quo and think outside the box to develop solutions.
  • Experience participating in hackathons.

Subject-matter roles

1-2 members of your team should have a solid understanding of the subject matter (climate change) and have the following skills:

  • Passion for sustainability and environmental conservation, including green energy transition. 
  • Knowledge of the various ways individuals, small or medium-size businesses, or industries can contribute to a greener future.
  • Creativity and curiosity about new tools, approaches, services or policies that can help Canada achieve its 2050 Net-Zero targets.
  • Current students from across all campuses and all faculties are eligible to participate.  This includes all educational levels from undergrad to post-doc and grad and full-time and part-time students
  • Teams must have a minimum of 3 and maximum of 6 members
  • Each team must identify a Lead for primary and time sensitive communications
  • The project should be either new or less than 6 months old and not received any prior funding via grants, prizes or awards or private investment

Given the technology focus of the Challenge, teams should have some core competencies in technology-related fields to support their project – these may be demonstrated through academic study, previous work or extra-curricular experience.  We also encourage teams that are diverse with regards to academic background and inclusion of equity-deserving groups.  This is not only consistent with U of T’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion values, but there is also a large body of evidence that diverse teams are high performers.

The RBC Innovation Challenge will run from September 26, 2022, until January 26, 2023, and consists of three phases:

1. Discover Phase

September 26 – November 13

Objective: Provide opportunities for students to learn more about the Challenge, be inspired and ideate on project ideas and facilitate team formation. 

Activities include:

  • Website, application portal and Slack channel launch on Sept 26
  • Launch event featuring climate experts, business leaders and entrepreneurs on Oct 11
  • A series of online workshops to facilitate ideation and team formation Oct 12-14
  • Additional in-person and virtual team formation and ideation opportunities sponsored by U of T’s campus accelerators and divisions

Key dates:

November 13, 11:59 pm – Deadline to submit team application

2. Develop Phase

November 14 – January 6

Objective: Teams build out or develop their project idea, working towards “version one” of a product that contains just enough features for the solution to be usable.  This is also known as a minimum viable product (MVP).

Activities include:

  • Drop-in office hours (virtual and in-person) across the tri-campus with RBC technologists, U of T advisors, and external experts to provide mentorship and troubleshooting expertise through the development lifecycle. ​ 
  • Customer discovery, prototyping, design thinking and other related workshops

Key dates:

November 30 – Technical Check-in and Mentor Super Session

3. Deliver Phase

January 6 to January 26

Objective: Prepare to submit the final project, present and compete with other teams for prizes and support to further develop your idea.

Activities include: 

  • Perfecting your pitch workshops, final technical and presentation support
  • Final materials submission is Jan 13 (submission materials include: presentation deck, video recording of pitch, resume of team members and  relevant technical documentation eg. code repository)
  • Final Pitch Presentations and Awards Ceremony is January 26 (with audience of RBC employees and executives, U of T senior leaders, U of T faculty, and students)

Key dates:

January 13, 2023, at 11:59 pm – Deadline to submit final pitch
January 26 – Culminating event and winner selection

 PhaseDatesActivity 
DISCOVERSeptember 26 – November 13
October 11Launch Event @ONRamp , U of T
October 12 – 14 Three (3) virtual domain specific workshops 
 October 11 – November 13Additional team formation and ideation activities
 November 13, 11:59 pm Deadline to submit team application
DEVELOPNovember 14 – January 6 
November 30Technical Check-in and Mentor Super Session
Development of version one / MVP begins in earnest 
Office Hours with U of T and RBC experts
  Workshops (eg. design thinking, customer discovery) 
DELIVERJanuary 6 – 26
Pitch Prep (workshop and mentor support)
January 13, 11:59 pmDeadline to submit pitch
January 13-19Initial review by Selection Committee
January 20Finalists announced
 January 26The culminating event and selection of winners 

First Place

  • $35,000
  • Conference registration, roundtrip airfare and carbon offset to attend and represent U of T and an international climate or related sustainability conference of their choice

second Place

  • $25,000

third Place

  • $10,000

People’s choice*

  • $10,000

*Voted on by attendees of the Final Presentations on January 26, 2023.

All finalist teams that continue working on their project post-Challenge with the goal of creating a startup company or commercializing the output will also be eligible for:

  • Apply for up to $10K in additional support through the UTE Startup Services Program (once incorporated)
  • Receive one-year of free membership for each team member to ONRamp, UTE’s co-working and collaboration space on the St. George Campus

Registrations are closed.

Events

Resources

Contact

Please direct all questions regarding the RBC Innovation Challenge or registration process to:

Kay Martinez
IP Program Coordinator, University of Toronto Entrepreneurship
kay.martinez@utoronto.ca
Subject line: Questions: RBC Innovation Challenge


As one of the largest banks globally based on market capitalization, RBC has an important role to play in the journey to net-zero and we are deeply committed to taking action. The RBC Climate Blueprint lays out our strategy to accelerate the journey to net-zero in four key ways:

  1. Working with our clients to understand and support their transition plans and facilitate $500 billion in sustainable financing.     
  2. Achieving net-zero emissions in our lending by 2050, with interim targets aligned with our clients’ plans and Net-Zero Banking Alliance commitments, with transparent measurement and reporting. 
  3. Informing and inspiring a sustainable future through producing research on climate issues and policies, and convening stakeholders to affect meaningful actions and incentives for progress across sectors.
  4. Advancing net-zero leadership in our own operations, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 70% by 2025 and increasing our sourcing of renewable and non-emitting electricity to 100% by 2025.

You can find additional information about RBC’s approach and how we’re supporting clients at rbc.com/climate.

And, in addition to being Canada’s largest bank, with 92,000+ employees and 17 million clients globally, RBC is one of Canada’s largest tech employers. With over 10,000 employees working across different technical roles, our teams apply imagination, insight and cutting-edge technology to create solutions that lead to better experiences for our clients, colleagues and communities.  RBC is committed to being the destination of choice for technologists, driven by our engineering culture of curiosity, bold ambition and outcomes.  Tech@RBC offers hundreds of student and new grad roles, with opportunities to learn, grow and work with purpose.  From Developers to Data Scientists, from Cyber Threat Hunters to AI and ML Specialists, we inspire the next generation of brilliant minds to Be What’s Next.  Learn more and apply at Be Whats Next jobs.

Media contact: Kyle English, kyle.english@rbc.com

The University of Toronto is proud to be one of Canada’s leading public institutions committed to the goal of reaching net zero by 2050. By leveraging our significant research, teaching, and operations resources coupled with a track record of innovation that extends back over 100 years to the discovery of insulin, we can support the transition to a prosperous and inclusive green economy. This includes:  

  1. A commitment to allocate 10 percent of its endowment portfolio, representing an initial commitment of $ 400 million, to sustainable and low-carbon investments by 2025.
  2. A comprehensive operations sustainability plan to lead our campuses to Climate Positive by 2050, with the country’s largest urban geo-exchange system at the core.   

To tackle the technological, political, and societal factors that pose barriers to reaching net zero, U of T has robust, collaborative initiatives across its innovation ecosystem, including the School of Cities, BioZone, the Mass Timber Institute the Munk School’s Environmental Governance Lab, and one of the university’s most ambitious strategic initiatives, the Climate +VE Energy Initiative. U of T was named among Canada’s greenest Employers for the 8th time in 2021. Our vibrant startup ecosystem has produced 107 ventures in cleantech-related engineering disciplines in the last decade and raised $496 million in research funding dedicated to cleantech and renewable energy-related projects. Cleantech companies at U of T have raised over $292 million over the past decade and are advancing research in converting CO2 into renewable fuels and materials, decarbonization technologies, hydrogen, and renewable energy such as solar. Across the whole institution and beyond, the University of Toronto remains dedicated to the goal of building a greener, more sustainable world for future generations.   

Learn more about Climate Positive Campus.

Learn more about the Climate Positive Energy Initiative.

The RBC Innovation Challenge is presented by:

Delivery Partner